« PreviousContinue »
THE NINTH CRUISER SQUADRON. By REAR - ADMIRAL BOYLE
EVERYBODY knows of the drawn in the game mystery and deeds of the Tenth Cruiser war-silence as its first. Squadron, and of its magnifi
The squadron was oomposed, ceat patrol the Patrol of the in about equal proportions, of Royal Naval Reserve-between armed merchant oruisers and Scotland and Iceland, which, of naval cruisers: the latter through every minute of the being those too old (fortunately thatin fair weather and in for them) to be attached to the the foulest of the foul, tooth- live-bait squadron, thus esoapcombed sea-traffio
, and main- ing fellowship with the Aboukir, tained the blockade, until there Cressy, and Hogue; but still, aotivities: but who has ever considered able to keep the sea, 23 no longer any need for its in spite of their very grey hairs,
ioan and South Afrioan trade Most properly, nobody. Its routes, for this was the venue very existence, which began on of the "Ninth C.S."
The bage of the squadron know, mysterious: the hash was “The Flagship, at Sea"; of the high 8049 oloaed it in, our home was on the wave; and it had aegsed to exist, its our station-limits, the blue, the siderable time before the musio sea and sky. For as existed useful funotions over, some oon- ever-shifting meeting-point of and the shouting of 11th Nov- no comfortable harbour, with Its lut gasp, therefore, was and destroyer patrol, and sub
gun defenoes and boom defences
August 4, 1914, was kept un
VOL, CCVII.-NO. MCCLI.
marine patrol and trawler depots, training ships for patrol. We moved on the face stokers (though never leaving of the waters by day and by harbour), and so forth. night, without haste (except But, with the first trump of on high occasions, for coal was war, like Sam Weller's “werry precious), without rest; with old donkey,” they were logged some of our aching eyes fixed up off their death. bed to on the far round horizon for "take sixteen gen'lemen to ships, and some, still more Greenwich on tax - cart.” aohing, on the near wave-orests Anything for air and exeroise, for submarines, our gans loaded, indeed! our fingers (so to speak) on the Oat they went at once into triggers.
the broad Atlantio, and galo? The ceaseless watch was lantly did they attempt to never interrupted, not even by recover the spring of a youth the diversification due to the now nearly twenty years beholding-up of ships—this latter hind them. After about a year a daily and a nightly proceed- of it, the first of the old ships ing, undertaken almost thank- to get away, the Amphitrite fully as a break in the mono. and Argonaut, were relieved, tony-not even by the coalings, and steamed home at the very which had to take place every respectable speed of 16 knots; sight or ten days at Madeira, each of them having covered under the "friendly neutral- nearly 30,000 miles sinoe leavity" (which afterwards became ing England, and each having complete allianoe) of Portugal. consumed nearly 25,000 tons of At work at sea, or coaling in coal in so doing. But when harbour, the guns remained you consider that this speed menned, the look -outs inces- could be exceeded by at least santly looking out.
six knots by the foe we were i When the menace of sub- out to oatoh-the Karlsrühemarines round Madeira became and that the outranging by her really distinot and close, we guns of ours was in like promoved south: first to St Vin. portion, you will wonder, as we cent, in the Cape de Verde did, why that particular foe, Islands, that horrid, torrid knowing these facts, did not group of wind-swept oinders ; come over to our side of the and lastly, to the even hotter, Atlantio to “take us on." but at least verdant harbour What fat cargoes might of Sierra Leone—“the best 'ole not the Germans then have of all," as it was defended by a snatohed, waddling home from boom!
the Plate and from the Cape, The oruigers with which we slow, helpless! But they kept started in 1914 had already, maddeningly clear of us, and for several years, been reolin- made up all their “bags” over ing in senile deoay on various 1000 miles away. sorap - heaps, or else were in As to the armed merchant gentle employment as “over. oruisers, the other half of our flow-ships” to orowded naval squadron, they, of course, were
the mightiest bluff of all: & of the waves, being caparisoned fact scarcely yet comprehended, for the fray, impatiently foam. and not even dimly imagined ing at the bit, neighing, and in the autumn of 1914, saying “Ha, ha" among the
It was, indeed, the usual captains (R.N.)! opinion that we had here a Every side of every basin in real, new, swift, and deadly the dooks held against it a arm—fully capable of pursuing, vast dark hull. Overhead, in ca tobing, engaging, and sinking the roofs of the equally vast the Karlsruhe, or any other and dark sheds that Hanked commerce-destroyer. Piquanoy the bulls and sheltered the was added to the position by onormous piles of ships' stores the thought that the Merchant removed from them, there Navy was defending itself, and looked down the brilliant and the realisation that there was unrelenting eyes of the aro something in the Royal Naval lights, cold and green. There Reserve after all.
was neither night-time, nor dayThere was, indeed, as we of time, nor meal-time; nothing the White Ensign speedily dis- but working-time, at twentycopered—and a splendid some- four hours per diem. thing, too; but as to their Every orifice in those halls ships, we, who helped to man -entry - ports, coaling - ports, and "run" them on man-of-war cargo-ports-oarried a gangprinciples, had few illusions as way from it down to the wharf; to their capabilities. Our and along these there sarged hearts were big, we were thor- in both directions an intensely ongbly keen for a trial; but busy army in single file, closed faith in our 14,000-ton levi. up. Some hurried into the athang was largely tempered ships empty-handed; some with hope for a happy ending hurried out of them, bearing to any enoounter with a real on their shoulders burdens of oruiser constructed for fighting. cabin - fittings, inlaid woodThere was a sporting change, panelling, obina, glass, every we supposed—there always is conceivable and inconceivable -50"Vive le Sport /”
artiole designed for the oomfort The Port of Liverpool, where of the pampered passenger, or the conversion of their most merely for his “look-see"- all cherished and most enormous now suddenly become useless monsters into fighting ships and contemptible in the face of Peached its maddest height the real thing, during that first month of the Each man's face,shining with war,was a wonderfully thrilling sweat, white with sleeplessness, sight. No one could regard radiated forth that strange all that day-and-night energy delight in destruotion which without being convinced that inhabits all of us; while from it must be producing some great within the rapidly emptying new things; that here was the shells of the great ships there Sea Horse of Britain, taken resounded on all sides the wild from the peaceable ploughing ozoiting din of demolishment
the bang, whang, crash, smash, as was possible to be bluffed, of those who hammered, and white ensign and
pendant wrenched, and levered, and complete. forcibly unsorewed.
Within the intervening 132 The work was not, however, hours, the ship had been gutted 80 destruotive as it sounded. of all her oabins on every deck; Every article and every panel stripped of all panelling everywas marked with the name of where; eight 6-inch guns had the ship and the part of her been mounted, the ship's framefrom whence it oame-oven its work and supporting deck had
consecutive number, as panel- been strengthened to matoh; ling. In those hopeful days and magazines and shell-rooms we thought the things would had been built. Besides this, each soon be going back again stores for the ship, food for at into its place! Each descrip- her company, her guns, and her * tion of removed fittings was boilers, had been hoisted in byta piled in monster pyramids, the hundred ton-ooal, indeed, according to its olass, abreast by the thousand ton; officers of the ship whence it had been and men had been appointed, evisoerated. The amounts of had joined, and taken oharge. these, for any one ship, were Aladdin's lamp must bave staggering to the ordinary begun to think about hiding unoaloulating mind. From the ite pale ineffeotual fire!
. Aquitania, for example, the A short gun-trial outside the weight of glass-ware alone oame Bar lightship, which passed to no less than 40 tons. (This us sound as regards guns and
( fact, however, will carry easy fittings: a last letter home in belief with any one who has the mysteriously veiled lan. handled the water decanters guage that later became so and tumblers usual to passen. easy and expected-and we
were away! The then un. Upon a certain Monday acoustomed seoreoy as to the in evening arrived from her vessel's destination and route de “trade” our ship, a luxurious, was interpreted in several
" ly equipped hotel, soft and places as meaning that we "oushy” at every turn, fair to were bound to a northern port, see, attractively painted; her to add one more to the troopfunnels in strongly contrasting ships well known then to be glossy black and the most ver- engaged in hurrying thousands milion of fresh red-lead. “Ah," of Russian troops aeross to the said her former Sootoh captain north of Scotland. For, with reminiscently, later on, on re- the snow still on their beards, garding & coloured pioture of and the ice of Archangel in his ship-of-peace, “ Yon's & their bones (as it were, chilled «
(, bonny funnell”
beef), they had been actually On the following Sunday seen passing southward by morning we left the dooks, train through England op stark and stripped, grey all their way to the Front! over, as nearly & man-of-war
We were in reality bound,